Venezuelan protests: Trump administration is sucking the air out of world news

Demonstrators clash with police during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela on April 8, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

This is Holy Week, the last week of Lent, which actually ends today, leading up to Easter. When I was in grade school we used to get a vacation from Thursday to Tuesday. These days, with spring breaks included in most school calendars,  the days off for Easter are limited to Good Friday and, in schools but not most businesses, Easter Monday.

Millions of Venezuelans make there way to beaches for sun and surf. This year a new twist has been put on where and how Holy Week sunning should be done.

In Venezuela this week has traditionally been a time to kick back and relax. Millions of Venezuelans make their way to beaches for sun and surf. This year a new twist has been put on where and how Holy Week sunning should be done.

Since the first of April hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters have taken to the streets daily in an effort to force new election. On the April first the government of Nicolas Maduro stripped the Venezuelan congress of its powers, making the country a de facto dictatorship. The move has since been overturned, but the protests continue. Opposition leaders are urging people to forego the beach this year and take the sun while marching in the streets of Caracas. Will this latest round of demonstrations have the desired effect?

The Venezuelan opposition has been calling for peaceful protests this week, as it has on numerous occasions before. Thus far the result has been failure. Maduro has no interest in a new election, transparent democracy not being high on his list of essentials.  I can only assume he is hoping the situation in the US continues to hold the world’s attention.

There is a popular cliché that fits this situation: the Trump administration is sucking the air out of world news.

If the protests do not succeed in bringing about a new election, then perhaps they will serve to show the world what is happening in the oil-rich country. But I fear that with the regular flow of idiocy out of Washington – from Trump’s knee-jerk reaction to bomb Syrian airfields (some say he would have done the runways more damage had he bought the airfield and tried to run it as a business) to Sean Spicer’s foot/ankle/shin in mouth statement about Hitler not using chemicals – the world is otherwise occupied.

There is a popular cliché that fits this situation: the Trump administration is sucking the air out of world news. International ne’er-do-wells must be having a field-day while world attention focuses on Trump-Russia and Syria.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Mainstream Media and Russian Hacking

One often hears the term ‘mainstream media’ these days. It is often used derogatorily by President Trump to indicate those news channels and publications that do not support him. It is not the job of any media outlet to support any president; rather the constant questioning is a necessary means of checks and balances. Without these in place, the public would be un- or wrongly informed.

Yet sometimes in an effort to be neutral, the mainstream media gets it wrong.

Yet sometimes in an effort to be neutral, the mainstream media gets it wrong. The current hot topic – Russia’s alleged hacking of last November’s US election – is a case in point. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, in a joint statement said: “The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. . . . These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

Whenever a network correspondent speaks about the hacking and how the investigation is ongoing and how there can now be little doubt that the election was hacked, they quickly blurt out “But not in such a way as to change the outcome”. They get that in so fast that it sometimes sounds as if they are saying the two things at once. Often they even lead with the statement that the election was clean, then go on to explain how it was hacked. To my ears it just does not ring true.

I believe that in truth they do, quite understandably, want to take some people’s guns away: those who have criminal records, those deemed mentally unfit, ideally those who have not shown that they are capable of safely handling a gun.

It reminds me of when these same media outlets talk about gun control. Just as they have finished illustrating the common sense of background checks, comes the disclaimer “Of course I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away. We have a Second Amendment’. I believe that in truth they do, quite understandably, want to take some people’s guns away: those who have criminal records, those deemed mentally unfit, ideally those who have not shown that they are capable of safely handling a gun (you have to pass a test to get a driver’s license, but anyone can obtain and use a gun).

So if I follow that logic, should I assume that many reporters and analysts, while discussing the hacking are really wanting to say “Anything is possible, the outcome of the election has been placed in serious doubt given the vast amount of Russian hacking”?

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Living on the Cusp of Breaking News

Cusp

:  point, apex: such as :  a point of transition (as from one historical period to the next) :  turning point; also :  edge, verge on the cusp of stardom

As I sit here north of the United States I am struck on a daily basis by the political goings-on of my neighbour. The still hard to believe election of Donald J. Trump as president has provided more ‘Breaking News’ items in the first 75 days than perhaps any other election. CNN and MSNBC are constantly bombarding viewers with ‘Breaking News’ to the point where it has lost it’s effect.

There was a time, way back several months ago, when the ‘Breaking News’ graphic and audio actually meant something big had happened – or was still happening. Now at the top of every hour the next segment begins with the ‘Breaking News’ opening. It has become something akin to the little boy who called wolf, except, of course, in CNN’s case where they are calling Wolf Blitzer.

We as viewers are getting used to living on the cusp of ‘Breaking News’. Please dial it back so that when there is in fact something new and of substance we won’t ignore it. News can only break once; it can develop for days, but it only breaks once.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Montreal Pit Bulls Take Action Against Ban

This week Montreal’s controversial pit bull law goes into effect. By the weekend the long arm of the law will be extended to the canine world. When the law was first announced I took it upon myself to interview a pit bull. Now that we are about to see how the law works once put into practice I thought it might be a good time to follow-up with my interlocutor once again. But before I could do so he contacted me.

He told me he and many of his fellow pit bulls have gone into hiding.  He wanted to talk with me before the law takes effect.

He told me he and many of his fellow pit bulls have gone into hiding.  He wanted to talk with me before the law takes effect. In an effort to keep his whereabouts secret he informed me by anonymous text message where I should go and when. He told me to wait and one of the members of the resistance would meet me.  

I arrived at the appointed place on time and had waited for just a few moments when I almost jumped out of my shoes as seemingly from out of nowhere a large German Shepherd arrived and leaned against me, almost knocking me over. He was wearing a harness with a handle, hanging from the handle was a pair of sunglasses that, when I put them on I realized were opaque, and a white stick.

The glasses acted as a blindfold and the white stick and “guide dog” completed the effect. These dogs were organized.

The glasses acted as a blindfold and the white stick and “guide dog” completed the effect. These dogs were organized.

After a difficult 15-minute stroll during which, while being led blindly, I tripped over my guide dog several times only to be helped up by good Samaritans, we arrived at our destination. Once I was allowed to remove my blindfold and my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see we were in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. As I looked around I could see several pit bulls checking me out. Just as I was getting nervous I noticed my host ambling over to me.

We went through the same process as last time; he patted me down to make certain I was not wired (this time I did not assume he was going to maul me) then he asked to see the biscuits I had brought. It then dawned on me that last time I used the Milkbones as a bit of a bribe to get the interview, but this time he had asked me, so shouldn’t he be giving me something? I guess it doesn’t work that way in the dog underworld.

Once he was pleased I was not wearing a recording device, and he had crunched a few dog biscuits he motioned for me to sit at an old kitchen table under a single naked light bulb.

“So you got here without too much trouble I hope,” he began.

“At least you sent a service dog;  I couldn’t see a thing,” I replied.

“…  in one door as a Pit Bull, out the other as a Doberman or Poodle, perhaps a Great Dane if the dog happened to be big enough.”

“Service dog? Don’t kid yourself,” he told me. “He’s not a trained service dog. He was only playing the part. Frankly I’m a bit surprised you didn’t end up in the canal…. If we were close to the canal…. Which we are not. Understand?”

“Okay, so tell me why I’m here.”

“Look around. We’ve been working very hard since the law was announced,” he explained. “This place is full of dog pelts of every breed known to man except of course for one. Our fellow pit bulls have been dropping by for several months; in one door as a pit bull, out the other as a Doberman or Poodle, perhaps a Great Dane if the dog happened to be big enough.”

I was certainly taken aback by this news. “But where are you getting these various pelts?”

“Dog cadavers,” he said.

“Cadaver dogs!” I exclaimed.

“No stupid. Cadaver dogs search for cadavers when there’s been a disaster. We use dog cadavers for our pelts.” he told me with a smirk.

“Oh, and just where do you get the dog cadavers?”

“Many dogs sign a ‘Pelt Donation Form’ that, once the pooch passes on, gives a moulting or balding dog a second chance. In this case we feel justified in using them for our cause.”

“That’s amazing! The authorities won’t be able to enforce the law because there won’t be any pit bulls.” I said.

“Many dogs sign a ‘Pelt Donation Form’ that, once the pooch passes on, gives a moulting or balding dog a second chance.”

“Exactly. Once this discriminatory law takes effect most of us will have to lay low at least for a little while,” he elaborated.  “Considering what they will do to us – microchips, castration, permits –  we are going into hiding. But right under the very noses of those who would have us banned.”

At this point one of the pit bulls who had been working away came over to me, barked and put his head in my lap. If the bark didn’t put me away, the proximity of his teeth to my flesh was making me edgy.

“That’s Carl’” said my host. “He’s apologizing for tripping you on the way over here. Remember he is not a real guide dog. We all have to do what we can these days.”

“He didn’t trip me.” I said “The dog who brought me here was a German Shepard. I saw him.”

My host merely grinned and nodded his head, stating “Not a bad pelt job eh?”

While there are plenty of pelts of all breeds – thanks to the kindness and generosity of our departed canine brothers and sisters –  we need something else.

I was gobsmacked when it dawned on me how effective these camouflage pelts were. I asked why he wanted me to meet with me.

He took a piece of Milk-Bone and chewed on it for a moment, then said: “We have a wee bit of a problem. While there are plenty of pelts of all breeds – thanks to the kindness and generosity of our departed canine brothers and sisters –  we need something else. You see, we have run out of Velcro. This has to be purchased, and we have the money – don’t even ask – but we are not welcome in stores.”

“I see, so you want me to buy you some Velcro. That’s easy, they have it at the dollar store.”

At this his right front paw came up like a traffic cop stopping cars. “No’” he said emphatically. “Lives depend on these pelts staying on. What if the cheap imitation Velcro came undone and exposed a pit bull in a Black Lab pelt? Huh, how would you feel then Chief?”

I had to admit he had me there. So I promised to purchase only quality Velcro. I told him I would go to a local fabric store. He suggested I find several such stores so I didn’t raise suspicions as I had a considerable amount of Velcro to buy. He pushed a fat envelope stuffed with cash across the table to me. 

“Get the receipts please, we have bean-counter dogs too,” he told me while rolling his eyes.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Montreal’s Snow Woes

A woman shovels snow from around her car following a winter storm in Montreal, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. (Graham Hughes/CP)

As I mentioned Montreal was hit with a large late-winter snowstorm last week. As a city that tends to take great pride in our ability to deal with these things, this most recent storm has been a bit of an anomaly. First there was the fiasco of hundreds of people stranded on a highway for many hours behind two stuck trucks. The truck drivers refused to be towed because of the $2000 fee. They wanted to wait until their company tow-truck arrived which was not going to be any time soon.

If there is an up side to the highway snafu it is that not one of those marooned in their cars took matters into his or her own hands and attempted to throttle the stubborn truck drivers.

You might wonder why these two were not arrested, taken away and their trucks towed. But that would have required the intervention of police and it seems they had wrong information and did not think the situation warranted their presence. (Yet a few days later six cars and a dozen police officers convened on the scene of a 26-year old driver who danced outside his car to cheer up his girlfriend at 2:00 am. He was also eating ice-cream. And he was Black.)

If there is an up side to the highway snafu it is that not one of those marooned in their cars took matters into his or her own hands and attempted to throttle the stubborn truck drivers. My faith in humankind remains firm.

The mayor of one affected borough posted a photo on Twitter illustrating the problem. An immense amount of fallen snow was exacerbated by contractors having dumped snow from driveways.

In yet another snow related situation there has been a vast problem with Montreal’s usually efficient snow removal. Sidewalks in some areas had not been ploughed several days after the snow stopped falling. One of the contributors to this was scofflaw private snow removal contractors placing snow in public places. They would arrive at a client’s place, shovel the walkways, plough out the driveway, deposit the snow on the street and off to the next client. In my part of town contractors must pay an annual fee for a license that allows them to do this BUT there are many restrictions. They cannot put the snow where it will block traffic, nor can they put it on sidewalks. With such a huge amount of snow in no time already massive snowbanks had been transformed into walls.

The mayor of one affected borough posted a photo on Twitter illustrating the problem. An immense amount of fallen snow was exacerbated by contractors having dumped snow from driveways.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this it is that contractors in general tend to cut corners in an effort to make money. These contractors were privately hired by residents, but over the years there has been a trend to cut back municipal employees, or at least not hire more when retirements occur, using attrition to save money. The work that was once carried out by full-time employees gets farmed out to contractors – gardening, refuse collection, road work – through a bidding process. If the only thing you are concerned with is the bottom line – the bean counter method –  then this is the way to go. But if the ‘bang for your buck’ approach is taken, then municipal administrators should think long and hard about what they, and their constituents, getting for the money.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Tweets From History

What if Twitter could be retro-fitted to suit history?!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Former Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney: The Singing Bandit

muldoonreagan

On March 17, 1985 – St. Patrick’s Day – U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy were in Quebec City to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Brian MulroneyThe event came to be known as the Shamrock Summit.

Reagan, well familiar with stage and screen at times looked a little embarrassed by the whole thing,

Perhaps the only thing anyone recalls of this meeting was a gala that was held to fete the visiting president and his wife. At one point during the show the Reagans and Mulroneys, including wife Mila, traipsed across the stage and joined in the singing of When Irish Eyes are Smiling. Reagan, well familiar with stage and screen at times looked a little embarrassed by the whole thing, or perhaps it was just the early signs of the dementia from which he was to suffer.

On the other hand Mulroney was in his glory, sucking up to, boot-licking, a conservative U.S. president in a particularly smarmy manner.

Flash forward 32 years and our neighbours to the south have elected a president even more controversial than Reagan. But as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Last weekend at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate there was a large fundraising event full of glitz and glitter. And there, like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day, was now former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney kowtowing to yet another president and, you guessed it, serenading him with his signature tune When Irish Eyes are Smiling.

muldoontrump

Smarmy, toadying, but mostly embarrassing.

Is Brian Mulroney going to become the political “singing bandit”?

A woman by the name of Morganna Roberts, perhaps better known as “the kissing bandit” made a name for herself by trotting onto Major League Baseball fields across the States and, kissing players or umpires. She popped-up all over the place and became an unofficial mascot for the game. No doubt her ample bust, which she claimed to be 60 inches, added to the spectacle. Is Brian Mulroney going to become the political “singing bandit”? Appearing at events and singing with/for world leaders? One hopes not.

morganna
Morganna the Kissing Bandit in action

Last week our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, paid a visit to the White House and met with President Trump. For the most part this was a glorified photo-op that maintained a long tradition of neighbourliness between the two countries. Folks here seemed pleased with Trudeau’s demeanour, neither servile nor offensive.

The only positive thing from the Mar-a-Lago affair is that when Canadian musician David Foster, who must take some of the blame for goading Mulroney into sing, presented him with the option of performing Danny Boy, Mulroney stuck with Irish Eyes. I like Danny Boy, and would hate to have it ruined for me by Mulroney using it in a fawning manner. With St. Patrick’s Day less than a month off, I am reassured!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+